Just sent in my entry for the 1000 Day. This is one of the more fun events
on the US calendar. Even tho its a few months away, its fun to start
thinking about it.
Of course, this year it will include the WOC team trials. I don't have
any chance to make the WOC team, but I'm trying to prepare for the event
as if I did. It is more fun that way, and I don't think doing so can hurt
in terms of improvement of my orienteering. (If I did have a chance, I
probably would not blog my thoughts -- but if my thoughts help others
improve, that is good).
The "conventional wisdom" (that I've heard) is that raw speed will be
important due to the fast, open terrain. And in my experience, I always
under perform in Laramie due to my slowness -- it is usually a handful of
ranking scores I have to drop, where "runners" are gleeful about going
out there and racking up the points. I had even thought of running my
age this year, but it seems more important in the long run to take on
the challenge, even if my ranking tanks. So, I've been working on speed.
We'll see if we're any faster this time around. Of course, the entire
field is probably working on speed, so it might be a case of running to
stay even. (Moreover, I'm not navigating very well at what feels like
a faster speed. There is more to it than just doing intervals).
But I think you have to be wary of the "conventional wisdom". My instincts
say to me -- woe be to the competitor who thinks too much of speed and
forgets the other stuff. My instincts tell me that the orienteering will
be more difficult than anticipated, and more difficult than has previously
been experienced out there. Will it be so challenging to make it the
determining factor over speed? It could. If I were say, seeded about
8th or so, and figured I had about a 10-20% chance of making the team, I'd
bet against the field and train technique, technique, technique at my
existing speed. I would work route choice, route choice, route choice,
and gamble that my best chance is that the course setter has set a course
where brains can beat brawn. Of course, the top guys are still going to
orienteer well at their faster speeds, but this is how a game theorist
would look at the problem. (Also, for the first time ever, I have ordered
the old maps of the area. This is one of my verboten rules, never order
the maps as O is still about the thrill of discovery, but my goal here is
to simulate what I would do as close as possible).
And woe be to the competitor who neglects race endurance. I think the classic
is going to be on the grueling side. I think a 12-15K run in terrain, with
a map (line O) at race pace once every 7-10 days is indicated. Unfortunately,
we are not getting this sort of training at A meets, and will have to make
it up ourselves. (The short A meets this season, I think, are actually
hurting, and I'll be paying for it when I head to Europe this year (I'm going
to feel over my head running my age) -- but that is an editorial for another
day ... I'll be running M21E in Europe, mainly for the training benefit, as
I feel it is absolutely essential).
Another factor, of course, is the altitude (~3000m asl). Altitude kills me,
and the trials could not come at a worse time for my altitude profile, which
is usually to feel kinda yucky the first day, and deteriorate to downright
sickness by about day 5. By the last day, I usually feel well enough to
put in a very good race (and have great training runs when I get home will
all those extra red blood cells, which usually die off the day before an
important race back home ...).
If I had a chance to make the team, I would go out a minimum of one week
before, possibly 2. Not only would I adjust better, I could train
in the terrain. I've prodded one hopeful to do this -- I wonder if anyone
will. I was actually planning to do this myself, but there is only so much
time and money to play fantasy O.
It would seem a bit bizarre to go train at altitude simply to better your
chances at the trials, when altitude performance is not relevant for the
actual WOC in Sweden. By doing this, you could actually bump someone off
the team who might be better qualified for good races in Sweden, but
was unable (for financial reasons, for example), to prepare at altitude
for the trials. But how much does the altitude really affect the top runners
anyway? Could it be a deciding factor? An interesting philosophical topic
to explore some other night ...
This does, tho, bring up the whole relevancy issue of Wyoming
vis-a-vis Sweden. My initial thoughts on this, when Laramie was selected --
was yuck -- not even close to relevant, and certainly the least favorable to
me, who does best in "grunge O". But the more I've thought about it,
and the more I've learned about O, the more I feel it was an excellent
choice -- my gut is that it is forcing people to think about training
more (or at least it should be; that has been my experience), and that
has to be a Good Thing in the long run for the team. I think the only way I
whine about Wyoming is if some dark horse who is really fast yet is
normally ranked much lower than the field takes a spot. I don't think this
will happen, but we all know what Wyoming is like, and we should be motivated
to work really hard to make sure it does not. So no whining allowed, at
least that is the way I'm looking at it.
Well, I've done better at altitude more recently in my career, but none
of it was as high as Laramie. I'll get a dose in Europe this year (about
1600m asl); that probably won't be relevant.
In any case, looking forward to the races. It is a thrill just to be
able to compete in the trials -- how many sports to the fans actually
get to play on the same field as the top people. It is really like being
in the dugout at the World Series, at least that's the way I look at it.